KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare Plays Key Role In Rising Debt, Taxpayers Face Bigger Tab

USA Today found that a leap in U.S. debt hit taxpayers with 12 percent more red ink in 2008. The paper used federal data to analyze the debt and found that the leap "stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security."

"The latest increase raises federal obligations to a record $546,668 per household in 2008," USA Today reported, noting that "taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises." The increase is the largest since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003.

USA Today reported: "Bottom line: The government took on $6.8 trillion in new obligations in 2008, pushing the total owed to a record $63.8 trillion. The numbers measure what's needed today - set aside in a lump sum, earning interest - to pay benefits that won't be covered by future taxes." The paper looked at key federal obligations for Social Security, Medicare and retirement programs. With Medicare, USA Today noted that more than 1 million a year will enroll starting in 2011 when the first Baby Boomer turns 65 and that the average 2008 benefit was $11,018 (Cauchon, 5/29).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.